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Turnaround artists

That is especially true when an enterprise's decline follows on the heels of great success. In this month's issue we look at two such cases: Putnam Investments in the U.S. and Fiat SpA in Italy.

That is especially true when an enterprise's decline follows on the heels of great success. In this month's issue we look at two such cases: Putnam Investments in the U.S. and Fiat SpA in Italy.

In "Righting Putnam," starting on page 48, Staff Writer Rich Blake explores the challenge facing Larry Lasser, who over nearly two decades as CEO transformed Putnam from a middling Boston money manager into a global powerhouse, only to watch the stock market's collapse savage his firm. With assets down more than 40 percent from their peak in 2000, Lasser must cope with shrunken profits and margins while restoring a once-vaunted investment management process that lost its bearings during the bubble. A first step -- recruiting turnaround specialist Charles (Ed) Haldeman -- has been welcomed by the market and company insiders, Blake writes.

Fiat's problems owe as much to hubris as to the economic cycle. Flush with success in the late 1990s, Fiat, run by a series of outside managers hired by the controlling Agnelli family, spent freely to diversify while neglecting its core car business, in a misguided effort to become the General Electric Co. of Italy. Now, as Contributor Rob Cox notes in "Fixing Fiat," starting on page 68, Umberto Agnelli, who became family patriarch in January when his brother Gianni died, must now retool Fiat, not only to return the company to profitability -- it has lost billions in the past two years -- but to restore much of the Agnellis' lost wealth. Like Lasser at Putnam, he is refocusing his company on the basics -- in his case, the core business of building autos -- and hiving off recently acquired noncore operations. The irony for the Agnellis is that to reclaim the family's fortune, Umberto will likely have to sell the carmaker once it has been turned around.

One of the basic decisions at a magazine like ours is how best to depict the subjects of our articles. Though we most often employ photography, this month we turned to Johanna Goodman, a painter whose work we first used five years ago and whose portrait of Putnam's Lasser graces our cover. A graduate of the Parsons School of Design, Goodman has illustrated works for Time, Forbes, Rolling Stone and TV Guide. Her oeuvre is distinguished by its bold strokes, done in oil on layers of clear vinyl. The first layer is usually a black-only drawing; additional layers are applied for color and depth.